A very useful tool I have found when running title is to have a good way to generate flowcharts for tracking. I use flowcharts to track mineral interests, overrides, and working interests throughout the chain of title. I have found that many landmen and title attorneys use MS Word/MS Excel, or even butcher’s paper to make flowcharts. Your life can be significantly easier if you choose to use a dedicated program to design flowcharts.
Why shouldn’t you use a solution like MS Word or MS Excel? It’s a program that most of us already own and it can get the job done. Unfortunately, as many of you have found, for complicated mineral flows it can prove unwieldy. I’ve found MS Office products difficult to use for the following reasons:
I have found two programs over the last few years that have worked well for creating mineral flowcharts. Sometimes these programs are called “mind mapping” programs as well. Essentially you want a program that will allow you a large, customizable work-space to create a ‘map’. It should also have good options available to manipulate the output of the map.
This piece of software is what I generally use for flow-charting. As with many stand-alone programs, you do have to pay for it. However, it has a free 30 day trial you can check it out. After you try it out, it is $49 if you want to keep using it. Compared to the popular deed plotting programs, this is a good value to me. Anything you can do to generate a more professional looking product is likely a good investment.
If you’d like to see some examples of flowcharts you can build with RF Flow, visit the examples section of the website. However, RF Flow will not run on a Mac computer unless you have a Windows emulator.
SmartDraw is an example of a program that is more a more robust, “full featured” solution for designing complex flowcharts. It boasts of the ability to integrate with MS Project, Sharepoint and Visio. This software does come at a cost though. The various versions are between $197 and $497. This program also includes a free trial version to try out the software.
If you’d like to see some example of flowcharts you can build with SmartDraw, visit the examples section of the website. As with RF Flow, SmartDraw does not offer a Mac version of their software.
Since so much of what we do is moving to the ‘cloud’ and online computer applications I thought I would include a solution to encompass that aspect. Lucidchart is a web-based solution to flowcharting. From using the trial version of the program it looks like it can do a good job with flowcharting, and also allow of project management via integration with Google Apps, Visio and several other team solutions. It also will allow you share your flowcharts over the web.
As with many online solutions, Lucidchart it uses a subscription based model. If you purchase an annual subscription it works out to $3.33/mo, rest assured they do allow you a 14 day trial to check out the service. To me it seems like the benefit of this product is using it in a ‘team’ environment. As such there are other pricing schemes for teams and enterprise usage, where you pay on a per-user basis.
As with the other software I’ve suggested, Lucidchart also has a section of its website reserved for examples. If this is an option that may work for you, I’d certainly recommend doing a trial and seeing how you like it. As you probably already know, Mac users will be able to take advantage of this service.
I recently completed a review of Tracts.co – a integrated title management solution.
This service is an automated runsheet and flowchart software that will build flowcharts for you. However, it is an enterprise service designed for oil and gas companies that requires a subscription - so you can't simply login and try it out.
Flow-charting is a part of our job as land professionals that we have to do from time to time. Having the right tools for the job will make you more efficient. I recommend trying out these programs and seeing if one of them fits your particular needs.